Friday, December 29, 2006

Model Niki Taylor marries NASCAR driver

Model Niki Taylor marries NASCAR driver

1 hour, 47 minutes ago

Supermodel Niki Taylor and NASCAR driver Burney Lamar have tied the knot, Taylor's spokeswoman confirmed Friday.

The couple were married Wednesday before 60 guests at the Grande Colonial Hotel in the La Jolla area of San Diego, publicist Lesley Burbridge-Bates told The Associated Press. The bride wore a Vera Wang Couture dress.

Taylor lives in Nashville, Tenn., where she owns a clothing boutique.

The wedding ceremony was officiated by Pastor Rob Taylor of Calvary Chapel Brentwood, where the couple attends church.

Taylor, 31, and Lamar, 26, met at a charity event in January, Burbridge-Bates said.

"I looked at Burney and said to myself, `This is the guy I'm going to marry,'" Taylor told Us Weekly magazine, which first reported the news on its Web site Thursday night.

It is the first marriage for Lamar and the second for Taylor, who has 11-year-old twin boys, Jake and Hunter Martinez, from her previous marriage to former football player Matt Martinez.


On the Net:

Niki Taylor:

Us Weekly:

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Judge: Saddam to be executed by Saturday

Judge: Saddam to be executed by Saturday

13 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Saddam Hussein has been transferred from U.S. custody, his lawyers said, and an Iraqi judge authorized to attend the former dictator's hanging said he would be executed no later than Saturday.

The physical hand-over of Saddam to Iraqi authorities was believed to be one of the last steps before he was to be hanged, although the lawyers' statement did not specifically say Saddam was in Iraqi hands.

"A few minutes ago we received correspondence from the Americans saying that President Saddam Hussein is no longer under the control of U.S. forces," according to the statement faxed to The Associated Press.

"Saddam will be executed today or tomorrow," said Munir Haddad, a judge on the appeals court that upheld Saddam's death sentence. "All the measures have been done."

Haddad is authorized to attend the execution on behalf of the judiciary.

"I am ready to attend and there is no reason for delays," Haddad said.


Bill's Comment: There is one song, I know, that Saddam Hussein will not be playing- "The Hanging Tree" by Marty Robbins. Another candidate song could also be "Highwayman" by either Glen Campbell or The Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and the late greats Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash).

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Former All-Star Brown dies after fire

Former All-Star Brown dies after fire

12/27/2006 6:50 PM ET
The Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Chris Brown, an All-Star third baseman who played six seasons in the majors in the 1980s, died Tuesday, nearly a month after he was burned in a fire at his home outside Houston. He was 45.
Brown died at Memorial Hermann Hospital. An autopsy has been performed but the cause of death is still pending, said Beverly Begay, a spokeswoman for the Harris County medical examiner's office.

Authorities say they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the fire and how Brown was burned. Doug Adolph, a spokesman for the Sugar Land police and fire departments, said arson is suspected.

Brown played with the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and Detroit Tigers. He is the second member of the mid-1980s Giants infield to die this month. Jose Uribe played shortstop for the team from 1985-92. He died at 47 in a Dec. 8 car crash in the Dominican Republic.

A few years ago, Brown took a job with Halliburton Co. and ended up in Iraq driving, inspecting and repairing 18-wheel fuel trucks. In a 2004 telephone interview with The Associated Press, he said he'd faced enemy fire several times.

"It's a place I would've never thought 20 years ago that I'd be," Brown told the AP.

Firefighters arrived about 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 30 at the home Brown owned in Sugar Land and found it "fully engulfed" in flames, Adolph said. Firefighters found no people or furniture inside, he said, and neighbors told authorities no one had lived there for some time.

Adolph said officials at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital told the Sugar Land fire department later that morning that Brown was there being treated for burns he suffered in a fire at his house. How Brown got from the burning house to the hospital about 9 miles away is part of the investigation, Adolph said.

Brown was transferred a few hours later to the main Memorial Hermann Hospital, Begay said. Sugar Land authorities never formally interviewed Brown because of his deteriorating condition, Adolph said.

Brown, who played with Darryl Strawberry at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, debuted in the majors in 1984 and made the All-Rookie team in 1985 after batting .271 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs. Brown made the NL All-Star team in 1986, when he hit .317 with seven homers and 49 RBIs for San Francisco.

He underwent shoulder surgery after the '86 season and his statistics tapered off. He hit .242 in the first half of the 1987 season and the Giants traded him to the Padres. He batted .235 with only two homers in 1988 and the Padres dealt him to Detroit. He appeared in only 17 games with the Tigers in 1989 and batted .193 before he was released. He never returned to baseball.

Brown finished his big league career with a .269 average, 38 home runs and 184 RBIs.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bush Calls Ford 'A Great American'

Bush Calls Ford 'A Great American'

Dec 27 12:56 AM US/Eastern

Bush Calls Ford 'A Great American'
Dec 27 12:56 AM US/Eastern

President Bush issued a statement Tuesday night in response to the death of former President Ford:

Laura and I are greatly saddened by the passing of former President Gerald R. Ford.

President Ford was a great American who gave many years of dedicated service to our country. On Aug. 9, 1974, after a long career in the House of Representatives and service as vice president, he assumed the presidency in an hour of national turmoil and division. With his quiet integrity, commonsense and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency.

The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character and the honorable conduct of his administration. We mourn the loss of such a leader, and our 38th president will always have a special place in our nation's memory. On behalf of all Americans, Laura and I offer our deepest sympathies to Betty Ford and all of President Ford's family. Our thoughts and prayers will be with them in the hours and days ahead.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Gerald Ford Hailed As Selfless Leader

Gerald Ford Hailed As Selfless Leader

By JEFF WILSON, Associated Press Writer

1 hour ago

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - President Bush hailed Gerald R. Ford for his administration's honor. His former opponent, President Carter, called him "a man of highest integrity." And Nancy Reagan hailed his dedication to the country.

In the uncertain days after the Watergate scandal, those qualities were enough.

Ford, who died Tuesday at 93, was remembered for getting and keeping the country on course in shaky times.

Carter, who defeated Ford in 1976, said he was "one of the most admirable public servants and human beings I have ever known."

"An outstanding statesman, he wisely chose the path of healing during a deeply divisive time in our nation's history," Carter said. "He frequently rose above politics by emphasizing the need for bipartisanship and seeking common ground on issues critical to our nation. I will always cherish the personal friendship we shared."

Though one of his most significant moves _ pardoning President Nixon for any crimes committed in office _ was widely derided at the time, many have since come to see it as a gesture that healed the country as much as it hurt Ford's aspirations to be elected president in 1976.

"With his quiet integrity, common sense and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency," President Bush said in a statement. "The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character and the honorable conduct of his administration."

Former first lady Nancy Reagan, whose late husband mounted an intraparty challenge to Ford in 1976, praised Ford for his service to the nation during and after his time in office.

"His accomplishments and devotion to our country are vast, and even long after he left the presidency he made it a point to speak out on issues important to us all," she said.

Ford died at his home in Rancho Mirage, about 130 miles east of Los Angeles, where he retired.

"He accepted the enormous responsibilities of the Presidency during a dark hour in our history, fully knowing the daunting challenge he faced," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said. "No man could have been better suited to the task of healing our nation and restoring faith in our government."

Alexander Haig, Ford's former chief-of-staff, said on CNN that Ford "had to bring our country back and make it whole again and he did it with dignity, he did it with great, great skill and sensitivity."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Former President Gerald Ford Dies at 93

Former President Gerald Ford Dies at 93

By JEFF WILSON, Associated Press Writer
Wed Dec 27, 0:47 AM

LOS ANGELES - Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon's scandal-shattered White House as the 38th and only unelected president in America's history, has died, former first lady Betty Ford said Tuesday. He was 93.

"My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather has passed away at 93 years of age," Mrs. Ford said in a brief statement issued from her husband's office in Rancho Mirage. "His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country."

The statement did not say where or when Ford died or list a cause of death. Ford had battled pneumonia in January 2006 and underwent two heart treatments _ including an angioplasty _ in August at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

He was the longest living president, followed by Ronald Reagan, who also died at 93. Ford had been living at his desert home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., about 130 miles east of Los Angeles.

"I was deeply saddened this evening when I heard of Jerry Ford's death," former first lady Nancy Reagan said in a statement. "Ronnie and I always considered him a dear friend and close political ally.

"His accomplishments and devotion to our country are vast, and even long after he left the presidency he made it a point to speak out on issues important to us all," she said.

Ford was an accidental president, Nixon's hand-picked successor, a man of much political experience who had never run on a national ticket. He was as open and straight-forward as Nixon was tightly controlled and conspiratorial.

Minutes after Nixon resigned in disgrace over the Watergate scandal and flew into exile, Ford took office and famously declared: "Our long national nightmare is over."

But he revived the debate over Watergate a month later by granting Nixon a pardon for all crimes he committed as president. That single act, it was widely believed, cost Ford election to a term of his own in 1976, but it won praise in later years as a courageous act that allowed the nation to move on.

The Vietnam War ended in defeat for the U.S. during his presidency with the fall of Saigon in April 1975. In a speech as the end neared, Ford said: "Today, America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned." Evoking Abraham Lincoln, he said it was time to "look forward to an agenda for the future, to unify, to bind up the nation's wounds."

Ford also earned a place in the history books as the first unelected vice president, chosen by Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew who also was forced from office by scandal.

He was in the White House only 895 days, but changed it more than it changed him.

Even after two women tried separately to kill him, the presidency of Jerry Ford remained open and plain.

Not imperial. Not reclusive. And, of greatest satisfaction to a nation numbed by Watergate, not dishonest.

Even to millions of Americans who had voted two years earlier for Richard Nixon, the transition to Ford's leadership was one of the most welcomed in the history of the democratic process _ despite the fact that it occurred without an election.

After the Watergate ordeal, Americans liked their new president _ and first lady Betty, whose candor charmed the country.

They liked her for speaking openly about problems of young people, including her own daughter; they admired her for not hiding that she had a mastectomy _ in fact, her example caused thousands of women to seek breast examinations.

And she remained one of the country's most admired women even after the Fords left the White House when she was hospitalized in 1978 and admitted to having become addicted to drugs and alcohol she took for painful arthritis and a pinched nerve in her neck. Four years later she founded the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, a substance abuse facility next to Eisenhower Medical Center.

Ford slowed down in recent years. He had been hospitalized in August 2000 when he suffered one or more small strokes while attending the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

The following year, he joined former presidents Carter, Bush and Clinton at a memorial service in Washington three days after the Sept. 11 attacks. In June 2004, the four men and their wives joined again at a funeral service in Washington for former President Reagan. But in November 2004, Ford was unable to join the other former presidents at the dedication of the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark.

In January, Ford was hospitalized with pneumonia for 12 days. He wasn't seen in public until April 23, when President Bush was in town and paid a visit to the Ford home. Bush, Ford and Betty posed for photographers outside the residence before going inside for a private get-together.

The intensely private couple declined reporter interview requests and were rarely seen outside their home in Rancho Mirage's gated Thunderbird Estates, other than to attend worship services at the nearby St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert.

In a long congressional career in which he rose to be House Republican leader, Ford lit few fires. In the words of Congressional Quarterly, he "built a reputation for being solid, dependable and loyal _ a man more comfortable carrying out the programs of others than in initiating things on his own."

When Agnew resigned in a bribery scandal in October 1973, Ford was one of four finalists to succeed him: Texan John Connally, New York's Nelson Rockefeller and California's Ronald Reagan.

"Personal factors enter into such a decision," Nixon recalled for a Ford biographer in 1991. I knew all of the final four personally and had great respect for each one of then, but I had known Jerry Ford longer and better than any of the rest.

"We had served in Congress together. I had often campaigned for him in his district," Nixon continued. But Ford had something the others didn't, he would be easily confirmed by Congress, something that could not be said of Rockefeller, Reagan and Connally.

So Ford it was. He became the first vice president appointed under the 25th amendment to the Constitution.

On Aug. 9, 1974, after seeing Nixon off to exile, Ford assumed the office. The next morning, he still made his own breakfast and padded to the front door in his pajamas to get the newspaper.

Said a ranking Democratic congressman: "Maybe he is a plodder, but right now the advantages of having a plodder in the presidency are enormous."

It was rare that Ford was ever as eloquent as he was for those dramatic moments of his swearing-in at the White House.

"My fellow Americans," he said, "our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works. Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule."

And, true to his reputation as unassuming Jerry, he added: "I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me with your prayers."

For Ford, a full term was not to be. He survived an intraparty challenge from Ronald Reagan only to lose to Democrat Jimmy Carter in November. In the campaign, he ignored Carter's record as governor of Georgia and concentrated on his own achievements as president.

Carter won 297 electoral votes to his 240. After Reagan came back to defeat Carter in 1980, the two former presidents became collaborators, working together on joint projects.

Even as president, Ford often talked with reporters several times a day. He averaged 200 outside speeches a year as House Republican leader, a pace he kept up as vice president and diminished, seemingly, only slightly as chief executive. He kept speaking after leaving the White House, generally for fees of $15,000 to $20,000.

Ford was never asked to the White House for a social event during Reagan's eight years as president.

In office, Ford's living tastes were modest. When he became vice president, he chose to remain in the same Alexandria, Va., home _ unpretentious except for a swimming pool _ that he shared with his family as a congressman.

After leaving the White House, however, he took up residence in the desert resort area of Rancho Mirage, picked up $1 million for his memoir and another $1 million in a five-year NBC television contract, and served on a number of corporate boards. By 1987, he was on eight such boards, at fees up to $30,000 a year, and was consulting for others, at fees up to $100,000. After criticism, he cut back on such activity.

At a joint session after becoming president, Ford addressed members of Congress as "my former colleagues" and promised "communication, conciliation, compromise and cooperation." But his relations with Congress did not always run smoothly.

He vetoed 66 bills in his barely two years as president. Congress overturned 12 Ford vetoes, more than for any president since Andrew Johnson.

In his memoir, "A Time to Heal," Ford wrote, "When I was in the Congress myself, I thought it fulfilled its constitutional obligations in a very responsible way, but after I became president, my perspective changed."

Some suggested the pardon was prearranged before Nixon resigned, but Ford, in an unusual appearance before a congressional committee in October 1974, said, "There was no deal, period, under no circumstances." The committee dropped its investigation.

Ford's standing in the polls dropped dramatically when he pardoned Nixon unconditionally. But an ABC News poll taken in 2002 in connection with the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in found that six in 10 said the pardon was the right thing to do.

The late Democrat Clark Clifford spoke for many when he wrote in his memoirs, "The nation would not have benefited from having a former chief executive in the dock for years after his departure from office. His disgrace was enough."

The decision to pardon Nixon won Ford a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2001, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, acknowledging he had criticized Ford at the time, called the pardon "an extraordinary act of courage that historians recognize was truly in the national interest."

While Ford had not sought the job, he came to relish it. He had once told Congress that even if he succeeded Nixon he would not run for president in 1976. Within weeks of taking the oath, he changed his mind.

He was undaunted even after the two attempts on his life in September 1975. Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a 26-year-old follower of Charles Manson, was arrested after she aimed a semiautomatic pistol at Ford on Sept. 5 in Sacramento, Calif. A Secret Service agent grabbed her and Ford was unhurt.

Seventeen days later, Sara Jane Moore, a 45-year-old political activist, was arrested in San Francisco after she fired a gun at the president. Again, Ford was unhurt.

Both women are serving life terms in federal prison.

Asked at a news conference to recite his accomplishments, Ford replied: "We have restored public confidence in the White House and in the executive branch of government."

As to his failings, he responded, "I will leave that to my opponents. I don't think there have been many."

Ford spent most of his boyhood in Grand Rapids, Mich.

He was born Leslie King on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Neb. His parents were divorced when he was less than a year old, and his mother returned to her parents in Grand Rapids, where she later married Gerald R. Ford Sr. He adopted the boy and renamed him.

Ford was a high school senior when he met his real father. He was working in a Greek restaurant, he recalled, when a man came in and stood watching.

"Finally, he walked over and said, `I'm your father,'" Ford said. "Well, that was quite a shock." But he wrote in his memoir that he broke down and cried that night and he was left with the image of "a carefree, well-to-do man who didn't really give a damn about the hopes and dreams of his firstborn son."

Ford played center on the University of Michigan's 1932 and 1933 national champion football teams. He got professional offers from the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, but chose to study law at Yale, working his way through as an assistant varsity football coach and freshman boxing coach.

Ford got his first exposure to national politics at Yale, working as a volunteer in Wendell L. Willkie's 1940 Republican campaign for president. After World War II service with the Navy in the Pacific, he went back to practicing law in Grand Rapids and became active in Republican reform politics.

His stepfather was the local Republican chairman, and Michigan Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg was looking for a fresh young internationalist to replace the area's isolationist congressman.

Ford beat Rep. Bartel Jonkman by a 2-to-1 margin in the Republican primary and then went on to win the election with 60.5 percent of the vote, the lowest margin he ever got.

He had proposed to Elizabeth Bloomer, a dancer and fashion coordinator, earlier that year, 1948. She became one of his hardest-working campaigners and they were married shortly before the election. They had three sons, Michael, John and Steven, and a daughter, Susan.

Ford was the last surviving member of the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 and concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.

Clifford, an adviser to presidents since Harry Truman, summed up his legacy: "About his brief presidency there is little that can be said. In almost every way, it was a caretaker government trying to bind up the wounds of Watergate and get through the most traumatic act of the Indochina drama.

"Ford ... was a likable person who deserves credit for accomplishing the one goal that was most important, to reunite the nation after the trauma of Watergate and give us a breathing spell before we picked a new president."


Associated Press writer Harry F. Rosenthal, who retired from the AP Washington bureau, contributed to this report.


On the Net:

Gerald Ford presidential library site:

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Court: Execute Saddam within 30 days

Court: Execute Saddam within 30 days

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer
27 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's highest appeals court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence for Saddam Hussein in his first trial and said it must be carried out within 30 days. The sentence "must be implemented within 30 days," chief judge Aref Shahin. "From tomorrow, any day could be the day of implementation."

Monday, December 25, 2006

Legendary singer James Brown dies at 73

Legendary singer James Brown dies at 73

By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press Writer
4 minutes ago

ATLANTA - James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured "Godfather of Soul," whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco as well, died early Monday, his agent said. He was 73.

Brown was hospitalized with pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on Sunday and died around 1:45 a.m. Monday, said his agent, Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music. Longtime friend Charles Bobbit was by his side, he said.

Copsidas said the cause of death was uncertain. "We really don't know at this point what he died of," he said.

Pete Allman, a radio personality in Las Vegas who had been friends with Brown for 15 years, credited Brown with jump-starting his career and motivating him personally and professionally.

"He was a very positive person. There was no question he was the hardest working man in show business," Allman said. "I remember Mr. Brown as someone who always motivated me, got me reading the Bible."

Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, Brown was one of the major musical influences of the past 50 years. At least one generation idolized him, and sometimes openly copied him. His rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson among others. Songs such as David Bowie's "Fame," Prince's "Kiss," George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" and Sly and the Family Stone's "Sing a Simple Song" were clearly based on Brown's rhythms and vocal style.

If Brown's claim to the invention of soul can be challenged by fans of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, then his rights to the genres of rap, disco and funk are beyond question. He was to rhythm and dance music what Dylan was to lyrics: the unchallenged popular innovator.

"James presented obviously the best grooves," rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy once told The Associated Press. "To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one's coming even close."

His hit singles include such classics as "Out of Sight," "(Get Up I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine," "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Say It Loud — I'm Black and I'm Proud," a landmark 1968 statement of racial pride.

"I clearly remember we were calling ourselves colored, and after the song, we were calling ourselves black," Brown said in a 2003 Associated Press interview. "The song showed even people to that day that lyrics and music and a song can change society."

He won a Grammy award for lifetime achievement in 1992, as well as Grammys in 1965 for "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (best R&B recording) and for "Living In America" in 1987 (best R&B vocal performance, male.) He was one of the initial artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, along with Presley, Chuck Berry and other founding fathers.

He triumphed despite an often unhappy personal life. Brown, who lived in Beech Island near the Georgia line, spent more than two years in a South Carolina prison for aggravated assault and failing to stop for a police officer. After his release on in 1991, Brown said he wanted to "try to straighten out" rock music.

From the 1950s, when Brown had his first R&B hit, "Please, Please, Please" in 1956, through the mid-1970s, Brown went on a frenzy of cross-country tours, concerts and new songs. He earned the nickname "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business."

With his tight pants, shimmering feet, eye makeup and outrageous hair, Brown set the stage for younger stars such as Michael Jackson and Prince.

In 1986, he was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And rap stars of recent years overwhelmingly have borrowed his lyrics with a digital technique called sampling.

Brown's work has been replayed by the Fat Boys, Ice-T, Public Enemy and a host of other rappers. "The music out there is only as good as my last record," Brown joked in a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

"Disco is James Brown, hip-hop is James Brown, rap is James Brown; you know what I'm saying? You hear all the rappers, 90 percent of their music is me," he told the AP in 2003.

Born in poverty in Barnwell, S.C., in 1933, he was abandoned as a 4-year-old to the care of relatives and friends and grew up on the streets of Augusta, Ga., in an "ill-repute area," as he once called it. There he learned to wheel and deal.

"I wanted to be somebody," Brown said.

By the eighth grade in 1949, Brown had served 3 1/2 years in Alto Reform School near Toccoa, Ga., for breaking into cars.

While there, he met Bobby Byrd, whose family took Brown into their home. Byrd also took Brown into his group, the Gospel Starlighters. Soon they changed their name to the Famous Flames and their style to hard R&B.

In January 1956, King Records of Cincinnati signed the group, and four months later "Please, Please, Please" was in the R&B Top Ten.

While most of Brown's life was glitz and glitter, he was plagued with charges of abusing drugs and alcohol and of hitting his third wife, Adrienne.

In September 1988, Brown, high on PCP and carrying a shotgun, entered an insurance seminar next to his Augusta office. Police said he asked seminar participants if they were using his private restroom.

Police chased Brown for a half-hour from Augusta into South Carolina and back to Georgia. The chase ended when police shot out the tires of his truck.

Brown received a six-year prison sentence. He spent 15 months in a South Carolina prison and 10 months in a work release program before being paroled in February 1991. In 2003, the South Carolina parole board granted him a pardon for his crimes in that state.

Soon after his release, Brown was on stage again with an audience that included millions of cable television viewers nationwide who watched the three-hour, pay-per-view concert at Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.

Adrienne Brown died in 1996 in Los Angeles at age 47. She took PCP and several prescription drugs while she had a bad heart and was weak from cosmetic surgery two days earlier, the coroner said.

More recently, he married his fourth wife, Tomi Raye Hynie, one of his backup singers. The couple had a son, James Jr.

Two years later, Brown spent a week in a private Columbia hospital, recovering from what his agent said was dependency on painkillers. Brown's attorney, Albert "Buddy" Dallas, said singer was exhausted from six years of road shows.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Toyota auto forecast would move it past GM

Toyota auto forecast would move it past GM

By Yuri Kageyama, The Associated Press
December 24, 2006
12:48 AM EST (05:48 GMT)

NAGOYA, Japan -- Toyota announced on Friday a global production target of 9.42 million vehicles for 2007, increasing the odds that the Japanese manufacturer will surpass troubled General Motors Corp. as the world's No. 1 automaker.

Toyota will expand into the Nextel Cup Series next year with at least three full-time teams fielding the Camry: Michael Waltrip Racing, Team Red Bull and Bill Davis Racing. The company's Tundra won the 2006 Craftsman Truck Series championship with Todd Bodine.

The latest figure, announced by Toyota in a release, marks a 4-percent increase over the 9.04 million vehicles the company expects to produce this year and easily clears the 9.2 million vehicles GM is estimated to have produced this year.

GM does not give targets for next year, but it has been forced to scale back production recently, seeing its market share eroded by Asian automakers, including Toyota, which have a reputation for better mileage.

The numbers weren't a surprise, given the recent achievements of Toyota, said Tsuyoshi Mochimaru, auto analyst with Deutsche Securities in Tokyo.

"The growth highlights the fantastic reputation Toyota has won for its cars," he said. "Toyota may need to set the next goal to keep its motivation up if it becomes No. 1."

Although Detroit-based GM says the perception that its cars are gas-guzzlers is unfair and inaccurate, it is undergoing massive restructuring after racking up more than $10.6 billion in red ink last year and $3 billion more the first nine months of this year.

Toyota, on the other hand, is on a roll, reporting record profits, churning out best-sellers like the Camry and Corolla as well as carving out a reputation in hybrids, which use a fine-tuned technology of switching between a gasoline engine and electric motor to save gas at a time when oil prices are rising.

Toyota, which passed up Ford Motor Co. as the world's No. 2 automaker in 2003, also painted a bright picture of sales in 2007. It is expecting to sell 9.34 million vehicles globally next year, up from 6 percent from 8.8 million expected for this year.

The bullish outlook lifted Toyota's stock to an all-time closing high of 7,800 yen (U.S. $66.10) in Tokyo.

But Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe barely said anything when asked about the possibility that his company may soon beat GM in global output.

"That's just what the results may be," he said quietly at a news conference at a hotel in Nagoya, central Japan, near Toyota city where the automaker is based.

""There will be no growth without quality. We'd like to continue our efforts to make good products that win support from our customers."
- Katsuaki Watanabe

Watanabe spent far more time talking about how Toyota must strengthen quality controls if it hoped to continue growing.

Toyota has been plagued with a rising number of recalls as it standardizes parts to cut costs and develops and sells more vehicles at a faster pace. Its challenge is to maintain its reputation for quality cars and customer satisfaction at the same time that it continues to rev up production.

"There will be no growth without quality," Watanabe said, adding that quality will be closely monitored at all levels of production, including design, development and procurement. "We'd like to continue our efforts to make good products that win support from our customers."

Although Toyota's production methods, which empowers assembly line workers and trims inventory, are praised by experts, transporting that production to new places remains a challenge.

Toyota is opening new plants in Russia, Thailand and China next year to keep up with demand.

Watanabe said the company was considering adding another plant in North America to keep up with growing demand, although he did not give details.

Of Toyota's projected volume for next year, overseas production will rise 8 percent to 4.27 million vehicles while its domestic output will increase 1 percent to 5.15 million vehicles, the company said. The projections include Toyota Motor Corp.'s subsidiaries, truck-maker Hino Motors, Daihatsu Motor Co., which makes small cars.

In the U.S., the first Tundra pickup trucks rolling off of Toyota's Texas plant will arrive in showrooms in 2007, a sign of Toyota's ambitions in a lucrative sector dominated by American automakers.

Toyota has used its ample coffers to purchase significant stakes in two of GM's former Japanese alliance partners -- Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru cars, and truck-maker Isuzu. Toyota will be even using Fuji's Indiana plant to make Camrys starting in spring 2007.

GM used to be the top shareholder in Fuji, but sold its entire 20-percent stake last year as part of its efforts to raise cash for restructuring. Toyota bought an 8.7-percent stake in Fuji for about $315 million to become the top shareholder.

Last month, Toyota bought a 5.9-percent stake in Isuzu Motors Ltd., well known for its diesel technology that Toyota is eager to gain -- half a year after GM sold its entire 7.9-percent stake in Isuzu.

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